BOSTON — It was oft-talked about when Craig Breslow was traded to the Red Sox and quickly teamed up with catcher Ryan Lavarnway to form the first all-Yale University battery in the live ball era of Major League Baseball — in fact, the last time was 1883.
That's all well and good, but chalk it up to one of baseball's oddities, the kind of thing that supports the notion that any day you go out to the ballpark, you could possibly see something that no one else has before. For Lavarnway and Breslow, however, attending an Ivy League university — for anyone who attends an Ivy, really — was a special experience during formative years.
Lavarnway, for instance, may not think much of becoming the answer to a future trivia question, but he does clearly think highly not just of the Ivy League education he received in the classroom, but the one he got on the diamond, as well.
"For me it's more of just a dream come true to be in the big leagues than accomplishing something so specific," said Lavarnway after the Red Sox' 5-1 win over the Kansas City Royals on Monday afternoon. "But it's a cool thing, and I'd just like to give a shout out to all my teammates who played there, the guys that might have been overlooked because people don't give Ivy League baseball any sort of credit. There's more talent there than many people would think."
Bresolow is a little more aware of the history of his teaming with Lavarnway, but that may well be because he has the luxury to be able to appreciate it. Breslow is the established bullpen veteran, whereas Lavarnway is still fighting for a job and clearly just happy to be in Boston rather than Pawtucket.
"Obviously it's a pretty neat thing," said Breslow. "Yale is a pretty important place in
my experiences in my life, so the fact that, so the fact that we were
able to be a pretty unique part of history is something I'll always
But, of course, being a part of history is just a small footnote in the two's Ivy League experience. Not surprisingly, they both speak highly of the education they received there, and both clearly took their studies with much more seriousness than many future professional athletes. Breslow graduated with a degree in molecular biochemistry and biomechanics — going the pre-med route — while Lavarnway was a philosophy major.
Cue the jokes, but despite his choice of major, the 25-year-old catcher has put himself in a pretty good position to make some money.
"I definitely wanted to get my education, but I didn't think about philosophy ahead of time, I thought I was going to be a physics major," said Lavarnway. "I fell in love with philosophy the first class."
Lavarnway even remembers what the lesson on that first day was: an introduction to the ontological argument, Rene Descartes' famous statement "I think therefore I am." So, perhaps that kind of heady thinking serves him well when forming a strategy on pitch selection to psyche out opposing hitters.
And despite the fact that Lavarnway left after three years, he sounds very enthusiastic about someday getting his degree.
"Yeah, I definitely want to go," said Lavarnway. "If I can work it out depending on how old I am, I might finish."
Breslow, meanwhile, has found a way to incorporate some of his knowledge into his charitable pursuits as a baseball player, forming the Strike 3 Foundation while with the Oakland A's, a cause that raises money for pediatric medicine and cancer research. In that vein, it sounds like Breslow's a perfect fit for the Red Sox, as the team is well-known for its involvement with The Jimmy Fund and fundraising for cancer research.
Like Lavarnway, Breslow definitely isn't closing the door on finishing his education. But for him, that wouldn't just mean one more year of school and a diploma. Going the med school route would be a long and arduous process, with a decade or more under the tutelage of others before becoming a full-fledged research physician.
"The answer to that probably depends on where I am down the road, how long I'll play for, what my situation is in terms of family and those kinds of things," said Breslow. "If I'm able to play this game for another ten years, I don't know if at 42 I could envision myself in a med school classroom, but I'm certainly not shutting the door on that."
Either way, the opportunity to both attend an Ivy League institution and play Major League Baseball represents a unique Renaissance man perspective that few achieve. In philosophical terms, it appears that Lavarnway and Breslow have each found "the good life."